Lessons in Living a French Life

Bringing a touch of French culture to everyday life

Your Weekly Voilà: Life Lessons from Voltaire ✨💕🇫🇷
God gave us the gift of life;
it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. ~


This week, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review. As an entrepreneur, I'm interested in ways to build my business, increase my audience, and work efficiently. I'm a perpetual learner. Not the most exciting read at first glance, as far as living a French life goes; but there was an important point that hit me like a lightening bolt: "To increase productivity, employees need to be connected to the purpose of their work." I have rolled this thought over and over in my mind the past few days and decided it has everything to do with living a French life. With the help of one of my favorite French philosophers, Francois-Marie Arouet, better known by his nom de plume, Voltaire, I have asked myself some difficult questions that I think help to unlock our sense of purpose.
Voltaire known for his satire and wit received what he truly desired - to be remembered long after his lifetime. He was born in 1694 and spent his early years in Paris, educated by Jesuits. He became a writer and was critical of fanatical religion and corruption in government. Voltaire was kicked out of many of Europe's countries when he pushed the limits of his criticism of contemporary leaders. He was allowed to return to France as he neared his death in 1778. In true Enlightenment form, he made you think, question, and search for purpose in one's life.
I am often asked about living and creating a business in France. The most popular question is: "How did you do it?" Well - it's still a work in process so I can only share my story up to the point of still not knowing if I can live and work in France on a permanent basis. (Fingers are crossed as I wait to hear on my application for a working visa.) But what I can say is that it's not the HOW did I do it? But the WHY did I do it? that offers a more useful and applicable response.

Living abroad requires you to look at things from a new perspective and rediscover what it is that you truly want. Plus, demanding situations test those desires and reveal your personal strengths. For me, the WHY did I move to France? is because the mere thought of it for the past 40 years gave me goosebumps. I adore French culture and I love to share it with others. It was a dream that ran deep since a very early age and I knew that if I didn't give it a try, it would be the one thing I regretted on the proverbial deathbed. I finally decided to muster up the courage and try to carve out a life in France.

It was time to follow the goosebumps.

The WHY we do things is the question we have to ask ourselves of anything that demands our time and attention. At the heart of your answer is your life's purpose. Let me clarify that I believe we do not have just ONE purpose. We hold different gifts and at certain points in our life, we find a strong pull toward something that inspires us and moves us to action. It is in a life of purpose that we thrive.

If your WHY is strong, you'll figure out the HOW.
This photo captures me in my element. It was a shop in Bergen, Norway and you had to be oh so careful not to touch something for fear of toppling the entire pile. No worries. I was able to spot a favorite mid century enamel tea pot and a tiny gold frame from amongst the chaos. Think about what you love to do and then work it into a life's purpose.
Try asking yourself a few questions to help determine your WHY and thus your sense of purpose:

What are your passions?

What captures your heart?

Are there issues that you want to help solve?

What do you believe is important?

How can you serve?

Look for patterns in your life when you found excitement about an idea or your eyes lit up when you considered a new path. Those feelings will point you toward a life worth living. You'll be able to answer the questions above from doing and exploring and seeing what makes you happy. Yes. As an entrepreneur, I do ask those other not at all philosophical questions: Will this work out? Will I make money? What if I don't? Not everything goes as planned. But I am always learning and reapplying that knowledge to new challenges. For me, there is an intimate relationship of my life's purpose and the learning process. And when I pulled together my passions, they led me to a life in France.

I love history. Reading it. Sharing it. Walking through it.

I love old things. Discovering them. Learning about them. Providing them a new life. 

I  love design. Creating spaces. Visually thinking in new ways. Making a home.

I love to create. It can be spinning fiber, or making jam, or gluing shells on a brocante find. Making is at the heart of what brings me joy. 

Purpose is not a lofty ideal. It has practical implications for your daily life. It provides energy, drive, and dedication. It moves you beyond self interest and allows you to find your own strengths that can be of service to others. In French, this idea is called raison d'être - reason for being. Like Voltaire, the French people place a high value on enjoying the simple things in everyday life; rather than analyzing a grand plan and measuring yourself against others. Your purpose is something you create everyday. It is what we set our minds to and then decide to take action on. Some follow a dream by taking baby steps. Others - myself included - leap from the highest cliff and prepare for possible rocks below. I work my dream every day. I return to Voltaire one more time for the most important part of purpose: It means nothing until there is a connection to others.

For me, it's sharing my journey with you.

This weekend: Be curious, observe, and ask yourself a few tough questions. Then . . . wait for the goosebumps. They never steer you wrong.

À bientôt,

If you know someone who enjoys a bit of French culture, please feel free to share this email.

Just click here. Merci beaucoup! 
Each quarter, I add a blog post to Inside Karen's Atelier. This month I shared my favorite brocantes and shops in France. From small village flea markets to lovely Parisian antique shops, old things can't help but inspire us. Even if walk out of a boutique empty handed, I most certainly find inspiration in color, design, or something I just might try making myself. Be sure to take a peek in Le Shop where I create a curated collection of my favorite finds for sale.